Asbestos deaths rise

ofasbestos in the West ofScotland is far, far higher than has ever been previously admitted. And due to a quirk in the law, these men are often denied their full entitlement to compensation. Glasgow has long been infamous as the ‘cancer capital of Europe‘. and so the true extent of asbestos-related deaths has been obscured by mortality figures put down to cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses.

Asbestosis is not itselfa lethal disease; but mesothelioma, a highly virulent form of cancer irrefutably connected to exposure to asbestos, is deadly. Occurrences of mesothelioma are rare except in the West ofScotland where it is fast becoming the dominant form ofcancer. The tumour attacks the lining of the lung and all internal organs, and neither surgery nor radiotherapy has proved to be a successful means oftreatment. The development time from exposure is some 30 to 40 years; but after diagnosis, the average life expectancy is 44 weeks. Even as late as 1967. asbestos was widely used on Clydeside the 0E2, built during the 605, used 2.25 million square feet of the substance - so the problem is set to rise as we get further into the 90s.

It is not only physical pain that Scottish victims of the disease must suffer. Additional pressure is

It is now becoming clear that the number ofvictims . '

that lawyers’representing the insurance companies exploit this legal loophole by prolonging the case until the claimant has died.

The issue will receive national exposure on The Cost of a Ship, 8 Scottish Eye programme to be shown on Channel 4 on Sunday 16 Feb. Made by Jimmy Reid’s Alishojul production company in association with Scottish independent Track 29, it outlines the history of the disease and calls upon parliament to speed up the process that will do away with this unnecessarily cruel law. Reid is no stranger to the dangers of asbestos. He worked for many years on Clydeside, gaining fame as the public face of the ‘work-in’ at the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in the early 705.

‘The idea for the programme started when I

- began to realise the numbers of people that I knew

who were now victims of asbestos,’ he explains. ‘These were on the increase. I also learned that the

o law in Scotland was inhuman in the way it treated

these men and their families. I investigated

1" ' " _ further, and realised the extent of the problem and

2.25 million square feet of asbestos were used in the CEII pictured here by Oscar Manoli (from Shades ofGrey, ' Mainstream). placed on the individual and his family due to a flaw in Scots Law that halts a claim for compensation when the patient dies. In England, the next of kin can pursue the claim for compensation for pain and suffering and, with asbestos related mesothelioma, this is in the region of £30—£40.000— whereas north of the border the only possible claim is for ‘loss of companionship’ with a notably smaller payout. Due to the rapid escalation of the disease in its later stages, this law is particularly unfair to those suffering from mesothelioma; more so, when it is widely believed

the massive human problems it and the law had created for literally hundreds of Scots families. If the programme can do anything to help them, then it will have been worthwhile.‘

A report from the Scottish Law Commission examining this apparent abuse of the law will be put before the House of Commons within the next few weeks, but such a bill usually takes two to three years of parliamentary procedure and that is without an imminent General Election before coming into force. By then how many more people in the Glasgow area will have died and their families made to suffer because of an unacceptable legal anomaly? (Alan Morrison)

The Cost of a Ship is broadcast on Channel 4 at 5pm on Sunday 16 February.

_ Crosstown traffic

The modern equivalent of the ‘shooglie’ trams ot the past could well make a return to the streets of Glasgow if a new £1 billion transport package, unveiled last Thursday by Strathclyde Regional Council, goes ahead. A light rail transit system is only one of several developments which aim to balance the city’s need to expand its motorway access and public transport requirements. Other aspects of the report include a cross-city rail link to connect Glasgow's northern and southern rail networks, the construction of twin road bridges across the Clyde below the Kingston Bridge, a rail link with Glasgow airport and a system of eight traffic ‘gates’ at key junctions which would divide the city centre into restricted traffic zones. The full extent and timescale of the project's implementation depends on the level of funding available to the Strathclyde authorities. Presenting the plans, Councillor Malcolm Waugh, the region’s roads and transport chairman, indicated that an extra £5 million each year from Strathclyde’s budget would allow all aspects to be implemented within twenty years; with additional Government funding, this could be L reduced to fifteen years; and iithe

Government matched European funds, the project would be completed in twelve years.

Despite reassurances from the council that their strategy. two years in preparation, reflects environmental concerns, certain pressure groups have already sounded a word of warning over which aspects are prioritised. ‘It isn’t a package deal,’ comments David Holgate, vice-chairman of Glasgow for People, ‘so you’re not guaranteed to get all or nothing. Some bits will be done, some


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Bridges overthe Clyde at the site of the Kingston Bridge.

will not. If they build the roads first, that will take traffic from the railways and buses, and then they will use that as the excuse for not extending the rail

Last year Glasgow for People and Strathclyde Region clashed in the mods over an alleged lack of public consultation over the council’s Structure Plan, an integral section of which was the Twin Bridges proposal. The deadline for public comments on the new document is the end of March, and Glasgow for People is keen to

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ensure that citizens are fully briefed on the implications of its contents. The group is holding a public meeting in the City Halls (Room 4) at 7.15pm on Thursday 20 February, with Keith Buchan, environmental transport consultant and tormer Assistant Chief Transport Planner to the GLC, as guest speaker Holgate is keen to ‘give credit where credit is due’ and encourage the council in its policies to increase public transport, but with the threat of even more damaging traffic pollution hanging over Glasgow like the cloud of smog over Los Angeles, he is critical of the road-building plans. It certainly seems self-evident that more roads will bring more traffic into an already crowded city centre. Holgate also points out that building new roads is one thing; finding the money to maintain them, as a recent spate of complaining letters to Glasgow newspapers has shown, is another. ‘They’ve got the proportions wrong,’ he argues, adding a typically west coast metaphor. ‘lt’s like those folk who can't clothe their children adequately, so they keep having more, thinking it will all be better next time.’ (Alan Morrison) Further details about the campaigning work of Glasgow for People is available from 53 Cochrane Street, Glasgow Gt 1HL (041 552 8776). Copies of the transport document are available from The Chief Executive, Strathclyde House, 20 India Street, Glasgow GZ 4PF.

4 The List 14 27 February 1992